LONDON: Up to 20 percent of Albanian child migrants relocated to an English council in 2022 have been classified as disappeared after going missing, the BBC reported.
Kent County Council admitted 197 unaccompanied Albanian child migrants up to Oct. 31, but figures show that 39 have gone missing.
Officials said that the council is working closely with the UK Home Office to protect and safeguard vulnerable migrant children.
It comes as figures revealed that almost 12,000 Albanians crossed into the UK this year.
The number is an almost 4,000 percent increase on last year’s figure.
Ecpat UK, a campaign group that aims to protect vulnerable children, described the figures obtained by the BBC through a Freedom of Information request as “concerning.”
Head of policy, advocacy and research Laura Duran said that the 20 percent figure represented a “really high” number of missing children.
“We’re really concerned they are at risk of exploitation or have effectively been trafficked,” she said.
“They could be facing labor exploitation in different industries such as construction or car washes. They could be criminally exploited in drug distribution or in cannabis farms, or they could be sexually exploited.”
In a statement, Kent County Council said: “While all unaccompanied asylum-seeking children are vulnerable to exploitation, research and experience evidences that some nationalities are particularly vulnerable and can go missing from local authority care very quickly.
“Kent County Council has used both established safeguarding protocols, including the National Referral Mechanism, and initiated multi-agency strategies to minimize the risks for these children as much as possible.
“The council continues to take a proactive role in safeguarding all unaccompanied asylum-seeking children in its care.”